Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TV Rampage

TV Rampage - Television Reviews
A look at some current television offerings.

The Gotham pilot was excellent, immersing viewers in the early origin of Bruce Wayne as Batman and explaining what kind of city Gotham is (corrupt, naturally). What it didn’t explain is why it exists. Is this a superhero show? No. Is it a police procedural? Not entirely, but somewhat and we don’t need another one. Is it straight action/adventure? Sort of. I’m still not sure, which means the writers and producers aren’t either. Ben McKenzie does a good job playing Detective (eventually Commissioner, I presume) Gordon. He’s a square and a sincere good guy—the only one in Gotham City, apparently. Donal Logue plays Harvey Bullock, a cop on the take with a lazy—but not absent—sense of right and wrong. David Mazouz is a bit dry as the recently orphaned Bruce Wayne, but hopefully he’ll be a more intricate part of the show as it ages. Several proto-Batman villains are introduced, including the Falcone and Maroni crime families, the Riddler and the Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin is the breakout character—the actor steals every scene he’s in and is an absolute delight. Otherwise, I’m not sure what we’re doing here. There are seeds of a good crime show—recent episodes are improving exponentially—but at its base this is a Batman show without Batman. I really don’t want to see Bruce Wayne mope around Wayne mansion taking boxing lessons from Alfred for 10 years. The jury is out as yet, but overall I generally like it. It could go either way depending on what they do with the concept. Convince me it has legs and a reason to exist and I’m in.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Based on one of my all-time favorite comics, Hellblazer, Constantine does a damn sight better job adapting the source material than the 2005 Keanu Reeves movie. In the long-running comic, John Constantine is a rake and rogue who would sell you his mother if he hadn’t already sold her to five other people. He’s a crass, snarky, chain-smoking scouser who dabbles in magic and usually ends up getting anyone close to him killed. Or worse. I didn’t imagine a character on NBC would be half of that, and he’s not. But an argument can be made that they did as much as they could to keep him Constantine while making him safe for network television. I liked, but didn’t love, the pilot. The comic book Constantine is darkly funny and almost always keeps his cool in the most dangerous situations. The TV Constantine (Welsh actor Matt Ryan) is a voice-raising, gesticulating git who puts “Master of the Dark Arts” on his business cards—at least he has the decency to be embarrassed about it. The comic book Constantine would have this guy for breakfast, but there is charm and a hint of darkness in Ryan’s portrayal. And physically, he is the comic book Constantine (originally visually based on the singer Sting). I liked the second episode better, and they even let Constantine hold a cigarette and lighter for five seconds (without lighting up, of course). I’m 100% anti-smoking, but that’s who the character is. Let him be that. The show is enjoyable so far and, while not the comic book character, may be a version of the Hellblazer I can grow to like.

Rating: ***½ out of 5 stars

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2
Sorry, I just can’t get into this show. I gave up in disgust about the middle of the first season last year, then gave it another chance this year. Despite the occasional Marvel Easter Egg thrown in, it’s a dull exercise in viewer torture that should be called S.H.I.E.L.D: Project Supermodel. Not recommended.

Rating: ** out of 5 stars

Arrow and The Flash
Gee, I’d really like to review Arrow’s third season and the new Flash show, but Dish Network, despite their promise to carry local stations, doesn’t carry the CW Network. It’s not as if the CW is a backwoods UHF station out of Baton Rouge. This is a national network with popular shows. When I called Dish to politely ask if they could, as promised, carry the CW, they suggested I buy a rabbit ears antenna and try to catch it on the airwaves. It’s 2014, fellas. I don’t want a rabbit ears antenna on my TV. That’s not why I pay you a king’s ransom every month. I have 400 channels I don’t watch and they refuse to carry the one I want. Just do the right thing, will you Dish?

The Killing: Season 4
This is the final season of the murder drama The Killing, only available on Netflix Streaming. These last six episodes are a Netflix original. The Killing is about an annoying drug addict and the world's worst mother teaming up as Seattle detectives and solving crimes. This season’s plot deals with a boy in a military school whose family is brutally murdered. He is the prime suspect, but could a teenage boy really kill his entire family? Including the little sister he adored? There really is some great writing and drama here as the writers close the doors on this show. The always-great Joan Allen guests as the head of the military academy and does her usual outstanding job. The detectives are also dealing with events of last season, which had the world's worst mother committing a crime herself and dealing with the consequences this season. This is a satisfying ending to an above average series. Well worth watching.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Sons of Anarchy: Season 7
SOA has been written like Shakespeare on Harleys for six brilliant seasons. But they’re wrapping it up this year and it’s time to go. Reminiscent of Oz and other violent crime dramas, they have to keep upping the ante every year; the sex, the violence, the body count, the treachery. It was a great run, but now by Season 7 there is no good man or woman left, and certainly no one to root for. If it lasted any longer the show would be a straight parody of itself. That’s sad; protagonist Jax was never a choirboy, but now he’s more evil than the bad guys he used to battle (if he was ever fighting for anything other than power). His mother Gemma (the Lady Macbeth of SOA), the one person who kept the family together with an iron hand, is a compulsive liar and homicidal maniac. Her actions this season have led to the deaths of scores of innocent and not so innocent people. Every member of SAMCRO is an irredeemable, murderous thug now. The only acceptable ending for those left alive is a long prison sentence. I can’t wait to see how it all ends, but in the few episodes left I predict a lot more death. And no one, especially Jax or Gemma, should be able to just walk away. Anything less than death or prison will not provide proper closure to the series.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Walking Dead: Season 5
Commentator Bill O’Reilly had some friends recommend The Walking Dead to him. He tuned into it for five or so minutes one night and was completely repulsed. Talking about it on his show, he declined ever watching again and said, “No thanks. I’ll keep my humanity.” What a drama queen. But I do understand that attitude from sci-fi civilians—it’s not for everyone. If you don’t mind violent zombie attacks and a minute examination of humanity at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, tune in for a riveting hour of television each week. This is probably, without Fargo, True Detective or Mad Men on the air right now, the best-written show on TV. The show is sometimes non-linear, and takes advantage of its sprawling, talented cast. No show is cast better, and no show has better special effects. Who would have thought a show about the zombie apocalypse and its aftermath would be must-see TV? But it is. Sometimes an episode will end and I will literally let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Just when you think the show is going to zig, it zags violently to the left. And leaves a mark. Watch it. If you have a strong stomach, it will both entertain and make you think.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars


  1. I'm betting on a leap forward in time with Gotham for the second season. Every adult stays the sames (Gordon may be a captain) but Bruce and Selina are now teenagers or young adults. The show is fine but I think Fox Execs are going to want to give the people more Bruce-learning-to-kick-butt and more Selina-learning-to-wear-high heels-and-spandex.

  2. I would not object to that. I really don"t see a time jump, TV kids grow up pretty fast. Gotham does seem to get better with every episode, I'm totally in for now.